Silk and Steel

Dec 4, 2020

I was out walking the other morning, exercising the dog after the school run, and saw in the grass little clumps of dew-laden cobwebs. This wasn’t unusual, it’s one of those things we see underfoot all the time and sort of stop noticing. But this day I was in a contemplative mood (or maybe just feeling a bit vague – there had been no coffee, yet) and so I stopped to really look at the webs.

The thing about those little grass cobwebs that appear overnight, they aren’t all neat and round like the webs we see hanging up on railings or bushes or – ahem – my living room ceiling. They sort of jazz around all over the place, according to the blades of grass that are holding them. Perhaps the little spiders know how the web is going to turn out when they make each new silken thread; perhaps they don’t. Either way, the web binds the grass together – and it’s kind of beautiful.

As I trundled home to put on the kettle and settle down to my emails, I was still thinking about the matrix of threads connecting the grass blades. Checking my Outlook calendar, I saw that I had meetings with four different people that day. I saw that each appointment was related to a completely different team or programme, but they all linked up together.

The meeting with the lady from Cranbrook was about reaching out to families and young people; the Skype with a colleague from the Culture team was about working with schools to make art around ‘Active Travel’; the Zoom with a community member was to hear how he and his granddaughter were cycling to and from school, whatever the weather; and the phone call with one of our Live and Move team was about listening to the community’s thoughts on how to make foot and cycle paths easier to use. Different projects, different organisations, different purposes, but the day’s conversations all linked up in a way that I couldn’t have guessed at even a week ago.

I thought about the work going on in our communities over this pandemic, which I was privileged to witness as the Live and Move team were re-deployed for a bit to help form Exeter Community Wellbeing. Volunteers and community groups pulled out all the stops to support people in isolation or hardship over both lockdowns – and in between, and after. Their grassroots networks made up a web that has become more like tungsten steel than silk. Some of the stories coming to us through the Wellbeing Exeter Community Builders and Physical Activity Organisers (check out their links at the bottom of the page) punched you in the gut with gratitude for the overflowing compassion that exists between strangers. Not strangers any more, though.

At this point, my cuppa was going cold and I hadn’t even started my emails. Taking the time to think about the dedication of the people in our neighbourhoods: the volunteers, community workers, business owners, organisations, local authorities, city leaders, key workers… it made me realise how important the work we are doing is. Not just us, though. How important everyone’s work is, in every strategic organisation and in every street. How important a smile to a stranger is (we’ve got good at seeing smiling eyes above masks, haven’t we?), or a free hot meal to someone isolating.

We do these things because we can and because we know that our efforts might make some part of the future just a little bit brighter for someone in our community. Together we are weaving our own web, all the time.

Perhaps we know how our web is going to turn out when we make each new connection; perhaps we don’t. Either way, the connections we make bind us even more closely together – and it’s kind of beautiful.

You can get in touch with your local Community Builder or Community Physical Activity Organiser through these links, go ahead and follow them to see what they are up to near you:

Wellbeing Exeter – Be Active – Alphington & St Thomas

Wellbeing Exeter – Be Active Exeter Southeast

Wellbeing Exeter – Be Active – Exeter Central/North

Wellbeing Exeter – Be Active – Exwick & St David’s

If you or someone you know requires support, take a look at the Exeter Community Wellbeing website or call the hotline:

Exeter Community Wellbeing Hotline

To request support, as an individual or a community group, get in touch with Exeter Community Wellbeing:

Phone: 01392 265000

Lines open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm

Exeter Community Wellbeing is co-ordinated by a team including Wellbeing Exeter partners, Devon Community Foundation, Exeter Community Initiatives and Exeter City Council. Funding partners include Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and Sport England.

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